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Daniel Aukin

Skintight

June 29, 2018

Harmon’s new play resembles "Admissions," his last New York offering seen at Lincoln Center this March, in that it debates a topic from many sides but then fails to give us the author’s point of view on it at the end. Like all of his four plays so far it offers a strong character who has a very big gripe with the way things are and who attempts to change people accordingly. And like the others, "Skintight" is very funny while it deals with a serious topic but ultimately seems rather superficial, though here that maybe because of the extremely wealthy milieu in which money is no object and things magically appear via live-in servants. As is Harmon’s wont, the acerbic repartee is tossed about plentifully and as directed by Daniel Aukin, the six actors get the most out of their snappy lines. [more]

Admissions

March 27, 2018

"Admissions" is often very funny like when Sherri has to try to explain why Melville’s Moby Dick is not being taught anymore (a book about a white whale by a dead white guy) and when Charlie is annoyed that girls in his class object to reading Willa Cather, a woman and a lesbian rather than a person of  color. Although the play is intended to be unsettling to white liberals, it is too neat in its setup. It would have to be Sherri who has spent 15 years creating diversity at Hillcrest whose son may be affected by affirmative action and Charlie and Perry who have been best friends almost all their lives should be divided by Yale’s admission choices. Perry’s picture in the admissions catalogue is rejected as he photographs white and does not look like a person of color, but to find a group shot demonstrating diversity it ends up having to be staged. And Charlie’s 180 degree change of heart plunges his parents into a great dilemma: do they use their personal contacts to see what can be done, something Sherri and Bill have not been averse to in the admissions office at Hillcrest for others. [more]

Rancho Viejo

December 8, 2016

LeFranc’s dialogue is a marvelous blend of the realistic and mundane. The well-delineated main characters all express themselves with true to life simplicity. Plot developments are the combination of subtle details that gradually do build to a satisfying resolution. It all has the sense of John Cheever’s suburban short stories where the darkness behind bonhomie is revealed. Swimming pools are mentioned in passing. [more]

Fool for Love

October 13, 2015

This is the fault of director Daniel Aukin who also staged it at The Williamstown Theatre Festival. Besides obtaining just competent performances from his cast, he has chosen a shallow high-tech approach in staging this small-scale but profound masterpiece by a writer at the peak of his powers in a Broadway theater rather then creatively reimagining it with meaningful aesthetic simplicity. [more]

Placebo

March 17, 2015

The play’s scenes alternate between the scientific research institute and the couple’s apartment.  The theatrical device of having one set representing both places is well rendered by scenic designer David Zinn’s realistic and well-appointed set.  Matt Frey’s lighting design and Ryan Rumery’s sound design contribute requisite razzle dazzle effects for the transitions from one setting to another.  Mr Zinn also designed the purposeful costumes. [more]

The Fortress of Solitude

November 7, 2014

Despite the novel's length of 511 pages, its focus on the music of its period would make this a natural for musicalization. The resulting show is an unusual stage work blending time and space, realism and magic, and exploring themes of race and gentrification, culture and self-discovery, fathers and sons, and how music defines the generation we live in. The music and lyrics in Friedman's magnificent and complex pastiche score includes pop, rock, rhythm & blues, soul, punk, hip-hop and heavy metal. While the musical doesn't entirely reach its goal as of now, it is most of the way to being an extraordinary new theater work. In defining a community and a generation through its music, it attempts to create a new form of musical. [more]